Rule changes proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor would seek to clarify the personal protective equipment (PPE) standard for the construction industry. The proposed change would clarify that PPE must fit each employee properly to protect them from occupational hazards.
As it now stands, the standard does not state clearly that PPE must fit each affected employee properly — as general industry and maritime standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) do.
The proposed rule clarifies the existing requirement, which states that protective equipment “shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition wherever it is necessary.”
Local observers applauded the proposed changes with some reservations. While the Labor Department says that OSHA does not expect the change to increase employers’ costs or compliance burdens, Polly Friendshuh, academic dean of construction sciences and business with Dunwoody Institute, wonders how that’s possible.
“As a woman who has worked in the field, I can say that having better-fitting equipment would be huge,” she said. “But looking at the flip side, I can see the economics of it. For owners, there’s an added cost, including manufacturing. You can’t eliminate those things. There are some unintended consequences to the proposal.”
OSHA’s cost analysis of the proposal said that the one-time cost of it to the construction industry, attributable to potential changes in employer behavior, would be around $545,000.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the approximately 7.7 million people employed in the U.S. construction industry, about 14% are female. An announcement of the proposed revisions noted that failure of standard-sized PPE to protect physically smaller workers properly, as well as problems with access to properly fitting PPE, have long been a source of safety and health concerns.
“The choice of PPE is as important